Junk Bond ETFs Shake-Off Year of Uncertainty

Despite all the misgivings about riskier assets in a volatile year, speculative-grade debt related exchange traded funds have steadily strengthened as yields on junk bonds dip to levels not seen since last summer.

Year-to-date, the iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (NYSEArca: HYG) and the SPDR Barclays High Yield Bond ETF (NYSEArca: JNK), the two largest high-yield corporate bond ETFs by assets, gained 11.1% and 11.9%, respectively. HYG now comes with a 5.59% 30-day SEC yield and JNK shows a 6.00% 30-day SEC yield.

The market-cap weighted yield on bonds included in eh Bank of America Merrill Lynch US High-Yield Index is 6.54%, the lowest level since June 2015 before the market sold off over speculation on energy defaults due to a plunge in oil prices, reports Gavin Jackson for the Financial Times.

SEE MORE: Falling Oil Prices Renew High-Yield, Junk Bond ETF Concerns

Nevertheless, with yields down and bond prices higher, investors are still finding enough compensation for the risks they take. Supporting the speculative-grade debt market, global central banks’ accommodative measures, notably their massive quantitative easing programs, have depressed sovereign bond yields and pushed investors toward riskier high-yield bonds.

“Today you have close to almost 50 per cent of the European high-yield market yielding 2 per cent or less,” Andrew Jessop, head of global high-yield at Pimco.

Consequently, the ongoing global search for yield has also caused many to flock toward the relatively more attractive payouts in the U.S. Around 18% of the world’s yield comes from U.S. junk bonds despite the assets only making up 4% of the total bond market, according to an analysis by TwentyFour Asset Management of the Barclays Multiverse index.